I hope you and your loved ones are safe and well.
It is hard to believe that it has now been 12 weeks since we went into the lockdown period and 14 weeks since we were all last together at Goodison Park.
As you are aware, over the past three weeks we have been back in training at USM Finch Farm. The success of that phased return is due, in no small part, to the intricate preparation and hard work of so many people behind the scenes here at the Club. As a result of that work and diligence, we have smoothly moved through each stage of the restart plan - and we are looking ahead to a return to competitive action.
Our players have felt safe and secure and have been excited to be able to increase the level of intensity of training, as they build up to our next fixture, now just a matter of a few weeks away.
It will be a very different experience watching Everton when we do return to play, with no fans inside grounds, nine substitutes for each team on the bench and up to five permitted to be used in the game.
A lot has been said about whether our first scheduled home fixture will take place at our beloved Goodison Park. We continue to work with our colleagues at the Council and other organisations, to ensure the right decision is made for all parties and will advise you as soon as an outcome is reached.
Whilst it may go against every instinct you have as a football fan I, most respectfully, appeal to you, on behalf of the Club and players, to please stay safe and stay at home to watch our games on the television - and not to consider heading to the stadium or gathering as part of a group in any other public places.
Much has also been said and written about the impact of the coronavirus on football finances. Now that we have greater clarity on the return to play, we also have a much better understanding of the scale of the financial losses we will face and what this will mean for our Club.
Although we now have more precise details of the financial impact of the coronavirus, we have known for some weeks that it would be significant and have been taking steps to mitigate this impact where possible. As a sign of the spirit of togetherness we have at the Club, I can confirm that as soon as we closed our sites back in March, our players, coaching staff, Board and Executive Leadership Team - along with other senior personnel - came forward to me to express their desire to play a part in protecting the Club. That willingness to help was focused, not only on protecting the Club, but also supporting our staff, our fans and our wider community.
The Board of Directors, together with our manager, his backroom team, the nine members of the Club’s Executive Leadership Team and other senior staff, voluntarily agreed at the very start of this crisis to reductions and deferrals in salary of up to 30%. Those Club personnel have been supported by the First Team squad, who have voluntarily agreed to deferrals of up to 50% for the next three months.
Everyone taking reductions and deferrals has volunteered to do so and - on behalf of the Board and, I am sure, every Evertonian – I would like to express my sincere thanks to every single one of them for demonstrating such integrity and honour in helping the Everton Family through this challenging time.
This remarkable show of unity has enabled the Club to maintain the salaries of all Everton and Everton in the Community full and part-time employees – all of whom have remained in full employment throughout this period - and enabled the Club to continue to pay its directly engaged matchday and non-matchday casual staff since our Club lockdown began on 13 March.
It has also been vital in ensuring we have been able to deliver the ‘Blue Family’ campaign on the scale we have. The campaign has been providing vital support to thousands of vulnerable people in the community. Indeed, more than 6,000 families have benefited from that support, with thousands of people in crisis also receiving food parcels and other essential emergency supplies.
It has been incredibly humbling for me and my colleagues to witness the overwhelming generosity from our supporters, with many thousands choosing to donate to this important campaign. Anybody who has made a donation – whether financial or through the giving of their time – has my deepest heartfelt thanks for such incredible selflessness. Such kindness has put food on the table for families who cannot afford to eat, provided shelter to those at risk of homelessness and extended a lifeline for mental health support services to those who have needed it.
I am regularly asked what makes me proud to lead Everton Football Club. The answer is our fans! And the response to this crisis serves only to underscore the fact Evertonians ARE the very essence of ‘The People’s Club’.
We ARE such a special club. I am delighted to confirm those fan donations arising from the Season Ticket and Lounge Member refund process are set to secure almost £400,000 for the ‘Blue Family’ campaign.
Once I shared this news with our owner, Mr Moshiri, and our Chairman, Mr Kenwright, they were so moved by this magnificent fan gesture that they immediately insisted on uniting to match every pound raised by our fans for the ‘Blue Family’ campaign.
These funds will be critical in supporting a number of Everton in the Community initiatives, including providing even more vital assistance to vulnerable people across the Liverpool City Region over the coming weeks and addressing some of the longer-term issues – not least mental health - presented by this pandemic.
Thank you again for everything you have done over recent weeks to support not only your loved ones, your fellow Evertonians and the nation’s efforts - but also those in greatest need in our community.
So, our attention now turns to 21 June and the return of the Premier League season - and a Merseyside derby. We will not be together for the match. But I know the Everton spirit will be alive and flourishing.
So, at 7pm on 21 June, when Z Cars plays for the first time in three months and the tears of pride are welling up in all of our eyes, please be part of marking this new chapter of OUR Everton history, by experiencing the first-ever ‘Behind Closed Doors’ Merseyside derby safely - watching in your own homes, with loved ones.
I know every Evertonian will be right behind Carlo and our boys in the royal blue jersey when that whistle blows.